What to Do if You Experience Sexual Assault

The first thing you need to worry about is your immediate safety. Do what you need to do to make yourself safe. It may be helpful to contact someone you trust, a crisis service, police or hospital. You also need to make sure there are no immediate physical injuries that need to be looked after.

Do not blame yourself

  • It is not your fault.
  • Often survivors will blame themselves and think they should or shouldn’t have done something.
  • Even if you think you acted carelessly, you did not ask to be sexually violated.
  • The assailant's behaviour, not yours, caused the sexual violence to occur.

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Decide who you want to tell

  • Choose helping professionals such as sexual assault counsellors, crisis support workers, shelter workers, public health nurses, doctors, and clergy.
  • You may choose to tell supportive friends and family members who will try to understand; however, they may not always know the best way to help you.
  • Since you have been through a traumatic experience, it is best to talk to a trained professional who will assist you with your options and help you deal with your overwhelming feelings.
  • Survivors of sexual violence often heal more quickly and have fewer long-lasting effects when they seek counselling.
  • Sexual violence may create emotional and physical health difficulties in your life. If you are able to express your feelings in a supportive, safe environment, these concerns will lessen over time.

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Allow yourself to feel and express the emotions you are experiencing.

  • It is important not to deny these feelings, however unpleasant they may be.
  • Survivors who avoid these emotions in order to forget their experience may prolong the healing process.
  • Many survivors block out their ordeal until it becomes safe to think about it.

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Take steps to make yourself safe.

  • Try to be aware of your needs and take care of yourself.
  • Self-care is an important step in the healing process.

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Options and Choices

It is important for you to feel in control of what happens to you after you have experienced sexual violence. If you have experienced a recent assault there are different options available.

You may choose to do nothing or you may seek:

Medical Care

  • Receiving medical attention is important following an experience of recent sexual violence in order to check for injuries, sexually transmitted infections and to prevent pregnancy (if vaginal intercourse was part of the violent act).
  • You can get the emergency contraceptive pill within 5 days to reduce the chance of pregnancy.
  • You also have the choice of receiving medication for certain sexually transmitted infections without having to undergo an examination.
  • You can go to your regional Sexual Assault Treatment Centre External Link for medical attention, your doctor, local Sexual Health Clinic or a walk-in clinic.
  • In Halton the regional Sexual Assault Treatment Centre is Nina's Place External Link at Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital in Burlington.

Forensic Testing

  • You may choose to have forensic testing in order to collect physical evidence.
  • This evidence could help in case you want to involve the police.
  • The Sexual Assault Evidence Kit has to be done within 72 hours of the assault and is done by trained nurses at hospital Sexual Assault Treatment Centres.
  • It can take two to four hours to complete and involves examination and various samples being taken.
  • You can have the kit frozen for up to 6 months in order to have the option of pressing charges at a later date.

Police

  • You may choose to involve the police at any time following an experience of sexual violence.
  • There are no time limits.
  • It is helpful to do so as soon as possible, or write down the details in order to have an accurate account of what happened.
  • When you report the crime to the police they begin an investigation to determine whether or not to lay charges.
  • It is your choice whether to involve the police or not and this needs to be an informed decision that takes into consideration your needs and wants.
  • It takes a lot of courage and strength to go through the criminal process.

Counselling

  • You may seek counselling at any time following an experience of sexual violence.
  • Whether you have experienced sexual violence recently or many years ago, you have the right to emotional support and guidance in your healing process.
  • There are various support services in the community that have specially trained counsellors who can help you (e.g.,Sexual Assault/Rape Crisis Centres).
  • You can also choose to seek treatment at a Sexual Health Clinic (through your local Health Department), with your family doctor or at a walk-in clinic.
  • There are no time limits.

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Related Links

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